Last updated: August 24. 2013 9:01AM - 75 Views

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LIMA — Growing up, Makenzie Skinner and her siblings listened to their mother fondly sharing stories of growing up on a farm and showing animals at the county fair.

The tales piqued their interest, but living in suburban Bath Township “we don’t have enough ground to keep animals without annoying our neighbors,” Makenzie, 14, said.

But there was another solution. Makenzie’s grandparents live in much more rural Harrod, and they had the space. With that, they joined the handful of city children who load up their show boxes late every summer and head to the fairgrounds.

The fair is happy to have them.

“We never want it to be a penalty for a kid that’s not living on a farm to take on an animal project,” said Mark Light, Allen County 4-H educator with The Ohio State University Extension. “Our goal would be to connect them with a local farmer or a local 4-H adviser who would allow them to host their animals.”

For Makenzie, finding a place to keep her goats and sheep was the easy part.

More difficult are the logistics. Every day through spring and summer, Makenzie makes the 20-minute drive to her grandparents’ farm, where she and her 15-year-old brother tend to their animals.

“I think that it takes more out of you, but it takes a lot out of you no matter what,” Makenzie said. She spends at least an hour there each night.

Through the years, county fairs have added plenty of things not found on farms. After all, there’s really nothing agricultural about a traveling circus or cars repeatedly and intentionally backing into each other, entertaining as it may be.

Likewise, 4-H has added city children, though sometimes it’s not a well-known fact.

“It’s a bit of a misnomer sometimes that you have to live on a farm,” Light said. “We try to educate the public that’s not a necessity to be in 4-H.”

In fact, out of the 200 or so 4-H projects at the Allen County Fair, only about 10 percent are livestock-related. Of those, Light guesses less than 10 percent keep their animals somewhere other than their home.

“It’s usually either family or friends that kind of create that connection and desire to show, even though they’re not living on a farm,” he said.

Makenzie, who herself has shown since she was in second grade, began helping her elder sister even before that.

“It’s just the general experience; 4-H has really added to everything that I like to do and I’ve met a lot of people through it,” she said.

Makenzie hopes one day to have children of her own involved with 4-H, though not exactly in the way she is: she wants to live on a farm.

From the suburbs to the show arena: Not all fairgoers off the farm

From the suburbs to the show arena: Not all fairgoers off the farm

From the suburbs to the show arena: Not all fairgoers off the farm
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